One Team, One Dream: The Militia Take Aim at the IWFL Title

by Ilan Mochari

What happens to a dream deferred? The poet Langston Hughes famously asked if it dries up like a raisin in the sun.

For the Boston Militia – the women’s tackle football team whose home is Somerville’s Dilboy Stadium (110 Alewife Brook Pkwy) – the dream dried up July 11.

Playing at Dilboy in the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL) semifinal vs. the D.C. Divas, the Militia seized a 21-19 lead late in the fourth quarter on a 33-yard touchdown scramble from quarterback Allison Cahill. To reach the title game, all Boston had to do was silence the Divas for the final 54 seconds

That’s when the sports equivalent of a heart attack took place.

Divas wide receiver Tara Stephenson – formerly a star heptathlete at Gardner-Webb University – returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. “A world-class track star made a play,” concedes head coach Derrick Beasley, 44. It was not the only play Stephenson made that day: She had already scored twice on receptions of 16 and 19 yards.

The Militia ( had entered the game with a 9-0 record. Moreover, they were fresh off their 34-14 drubbing of the defending champion Dallas Diamonds in the quarterfinals. All of which made the last-minute defeat to the Divas that much worse. “We were a little bit numb in the immediate aftermath,” says Cahill, a Princeton grad and personal trainer at Boston Sports Club’s South Station location.

Whether the loss carries over to the 2010 campaign, the next few months shall determine. The Militia’s first game is April 3 at the New York Nemesis. The Dilboy opener is April 10 vs. the Connecticut Crushers. On May 1, Boston travels to D.C. for their first revenge match against the Divas. Five weeks later, the Divas visit Somerville for the regular season finale.


It has been a rigorous offseason for most of the roster. Many veterans – the average age of last year’s squad was 30 – prepared on their own. However, a small group – sometimes it was five-to-eight players, sometimes it was in the teens – trained together Monday and Wednesday nights at Somerville High School (81 Highland Ave), where linebacker Sharyn Wacht teaches health and phys ed.

Wacht and Cahill organized the sessions as a way to stay fit and unified in the wake of the playoff loss. “I talked to my athletic director, Nicole Viele, and she thought it was fine if in exchange we also opened [the workouts] up to girls at SHS, so they could come and lift with us too,” says Wacht. On a few occasions, the SHS girls soccer team and girls basketball team joined the Militia. Sometimes a few track team members came too.

Right tackle Kelly Barker, one of nine returning IWFL All Stars, believes the sessions have paid off. “You can tell with a lot of players – our strength is a lot better than it was last year,” she says.

The workouts were a homecoming for linebacker/running back Kim Hickey, who played basketball and softball at SHS (class of ’93). She now works as a Workflow Coordinator for Delta Dental. “It was surreal, being there again,” she says. “I probably was in the weight room twice in my entire life in high school.”

The sessions also helped the Militia – all 45 of them – keep in touch. “The team is really gifted at finding ways to hang out,” says second-year wide receiver Erin Baumgartner, a Somerville resident and Program Coordinator for the MIT France program. In that social respect, the workouts complemented the Boston Women’s Flag Football League (BWFFL). For years, BWFFL games have helped the Militia spend time together once the season ends. In addition, the BWFFL is a plentiful recruiting source for Militia rookies.

Teammates also keep in touch by participating in charity fundraisers and youth football clinics. In terms of in-season Somerville socializing, the team’s bar of choice is On the Hill Tavern (499 Broadway), where they gather after battles at Dilboy. Day-after-game barbecues are also common.

All that hanging out hardly makes it easy to maintain a playing weight. Seventh-year running back Mia Brickhouse, a vital cog in the team’s spread offense, says she altered her dietary approach at group activities. “A football team like us, we tend to do a lot of socializing. You know what comes along with that. It goes right here,” she says with a grin, playfully thwacking her stomach. “I had to really cut back on that. The beer. The beer is gone. And I’m not going to introduce it until I’ve got a reason to celebrate – and that means a victory at the end of the season.”


In the sports world, it’s a cliché to attribute offseason dedication to jarring postseason losses. The rhetoric of renewed commitment is almost a norm for pro athletes with salaries to support year-round workouts and nonstop nutrition. The Militia, however, are not paid to play. Quite the contrary: It costs each player $500 to join the team, which auto dealer Ernie Boch, Jr. has owned since late 2007. Though the IWFL is the closest thing in America to a women’s NFL, most of the players support themselves – and their football regimens – through outside jobs.

Before Boch took over, there were two women’s tackle football teams in the Boston area: the Mass Mutiny and the Boston Rampage, the latter of which was the erstwhile Bay State Warriors. Boch bought both squads for “a few thousand dollars” – the precise amount escapes him – and merged the two into the Militia.

The Militia is not profitable. Boch hopes to change that through increased sales of tickets and merchandise. “My job is to make the team a very good team, so therefore people will want to buy tickets,” he says. “We had almost 1,000 people at our last game” – the July 11 loss to the Divas – “and we’ve never had that before.”

Coaches rave about Boch’s generosity. For example, Boch pays a six-person crew to film the games. “I take it home that night, I break it down, I give it out to assistants and we watch it as a team at the following practice,” says Beasley.

A fourth-round pick of the New England Patriots in 1987, Beasley – also the defensive coordinator for the Andover High School football team – is no stranger to film study. Neither is his top assistant, offensive coordinator Robert Perryman, whom the Patriots tabbed in the third round of the selfsame draft. The two ex-Pats also happen to be in-laws, having married into the same family of sisters.

Players also praise the accoutrements of the Boch era. “He bought helmets – no one’s ever bought our helmets before. They paid for all of our travel. That’s never been done before,” says wide receiver Ginger Snow, who holds several basketball scoring records at UMass-Lowell, where she starred in the early 90s.

Snow has also scored amply on the gridiron: 51 touchdowns in seven campaigns (five with the Mutiny). Statistically speaking, she is one of the most accomplished women in the history of the sport. And the history of the sport is not lost on her. “Coming from where I started – it was so grassroots,” she adds. “We didn’t have a locker room so we had to get dressed in the car, and we practiced on tennis courts (in Northborough, Mass.) until it was so dark we couldn’t see. We could only do so much. Sometimes we didn’t even practice tackling until almost game time. Coming from nothing, I feel like right now we have it easy.”


Step inside the luminous Harvard Dome in Cambridge – where the Militia broke camp in January – and you can see why Snow and other veterans feel as if they’ve come a long way from darkling tennis courts.

The playing surface is 120 yards of lush green FieldTurf chalked with hashes, end zones, out-of-bound lines and stenciled numerals. Powerful lights dangle like icicles from the concave roof. Near the entrance, three trainers assist the players – stretching them, taping them, debriefing them on this tendon or that joint.

Not far from the trainers, offensive linemen Amanda Alpert and Emily Conway are seated on the turf, surrounded by wide-eyed rookies. Class is in session. With red and green markers, Alpert diagrams schemes on a whiteboard. She enumerates gaps on the offensive line and letters the gaps of a four-person defensive front. She and Conway explain it, piecemeal, to the newcomers.

Gone from last season’s offensive line are All-Star Sade Williams and mainstay Maureen Reynolds. Though Conway, Alpert, Barker and Kehinda Oshodi return to anchor the unit, Beasley calls the left side – formerly Williams’ domain – “an issue we’re still trying to get ironed out.” That’s why the O-line’s whiteboard sessions are especially important.

Of course, every position has a steep learning curve, even when you’re from a team-sports background. Baumgartner, an elite competitor in ultimate frisbee, says her rookie attempt to digest the playbook was like “trying to drink from a fire hose – it’s a lot of info at once.”


Large portions of the Dome practices are clinical, non-contact workshops. After warm-ups, the linemen assemble near the end zone. Assistant coaches Jason Ouellette (offensive line) and Vernon Crawford (defensive line) preside. Not quite in unison, the D-linemen shout out “pass” or “run” based on their diagnosis of the O-line’s movements and gestures. Before the snap, they move left or right based on whether a coach shouts “Louie” or “Roscoe.”

One hundred yards away, at the opposite end of the field, the quarterbacks, running backs and linebackers complete their own read-and-react drill. By turns, Cahill and her rifle-armed backup, Nora Mitchell, take three-step drops and float swing passes to the running backs, who one at a time sprint short patterns toward a layer of linebackers. “Any safety would’ve jacked you up there, Penta,” exhorts linebackers coach Jim Gallotto.

Jessica Penta, one of the team’s most athletic and versatile contributors, is the subject of his jape. In this drill she’s with the running backs, but she logs time at linebacker and defensive end too, depending on the alignment of the team’s front eight. In the 3-5 scheme (three linemen, five linebackers), she plays to the right of “mike” linebacker Molly Goodwin, who calls the defensive signals. In the 4-4 Penta shifts to defensive end.

Versatile personnel are also important in the Militia’s spread offense. Though she is under center in goal-line, short-yardage and ball-control situations, Cahill often operates out of the shotgun with one running back nearby. Typically there is no tight end. Instead, two wide receivers are split out to the hashes, creating a five-person line with two slots. In one of the slots, a third receiver lines up; in the other slot is a fourth wideout or another running back.

At midfield, Beasley supervises the wideouts and defensive backs in one-on-one drills. Every few plays he stops the action to preach fundamentals. A defensive back must lower her pad level. A receiver must get in and out of her breaks more fluidly.

Practice concludes with sideline-to-sideline wind sprints. “I know what you can do in the first quarter. What can you do in the fourth quarter?” yells Beasley. To judge by the sprints, defensive back Briannah Gallo is not someone he has to worry about. Time and again, she is first to finish.

Among the linemen, who for preservation sprint a shorter distance, Barker and Alpert stand out. Wordlessly rejecting the shorter distance, they begin from the sideline. “The rest of the team is running a certain distance, and just because we’re linemen doesn’t mean we don’t have to,” says Barker. “I need to get in shape just as much as anyone else.”

Practice concludes with the team assembling at midfield. Everyone is clapping loudly.

The call and response begins. The clapping escalates.

“What do we do?”

“We win!”

“How do you feel?”


“One team…”

“One dream!”

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One Response to “One Team, One Dream: The Militia Take Aim at the IWFL Title”

  1. Militia take the crown « Somerville Scout | Somerville Events, News & Culture says:

    [...] at Scout, we’ve been high on the Militia from Day 1, previewing the team in our Spring, 2010 issue. Nothing starts a bandwagon like a title run, and we’re as pleased as anyone that the Boston [...]

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